Shahzahan Bachchu was known locally and within the secular Bangladeshi movement as an outspoken, sometimes fiery activist for secularism. He printed poetry and books related to humanism and freethought via his publishing house Bishaka Prakashani. He was also a political activist, serving as former general secretary of Munshiganj district unit of the Bangladesh Communist Party.
He was reportedly shot and killed Monday evening near his village home at Kakaldi in Munshiganj district near the capital Dhaka.
According to reports, four men riding two motorcycles rushed the tea stall at Kakaldi where Shahzahan was sitting around 6:30pm local time, opening fire on him before fleeing away on the same vehicles. Shahzahan was killed on the spot. Police said: “We came to know that he was an online activist and free thinking writer and had a publishing house. We are yet to ascertain whether it was an extremist attack. But we have been investigating keeping all aspects in mind”.
Shahzahan’s daughter said on her own Facebook page earlier: “My Father Shahzahan Bachchu is dead today. In our village. Two people have killed my father.”
Shahzahan has been at risk for some years, with the Daily Observer reporting in 2015 that a”phantom of death is haunting Bachchu Shahjahan [an alternative rendering of Shahzahan Bachchu] – a poet, publisher and freethinker, who is used to criticizing popular beliefs and faiths through his Facebook posts. He cannot sleep in his house and frequently changes hideouts to escape from the militants and fanatics who have issued numerous death threats against him through phone calls and messages.”
The paper quotes Shahzahan himself as saying: “Initially I ignored the threats, thinking that it would be useless to go after unknown scoundrels. But after the killings of Washikur Rahman Babu and Ananta Bijoy, I took the matter seriously. Basically my family has become afraid…”.